Education Matters: Keeping classrooms safe in Kings Canyon Unified


REEDLEY, California (KSEE) – A number of school districts began the process of returning students to the classroom in October. Administrators say it’s given them the opportunity to see what works and what does not.

Kings Canyon officials say if COVID-19 is still surging in January, they will put off returning their remaining schools to in-person learning.

“There is a protocol in each room where the entire class washes their hands each time they enter class either first thing in the morning, during break or after lunch,” said Principal Josh Darnell.

Kings Canyon Unified School District had to put a system of procedures in place when the school district decided to bring students back on campus in October for in-person learning.

“We have a very poor community and those students don’t have the luxury of having someone at home sitting on a Zoom with them, somebody to guide them that a lot of students have,” said Superintendent John Campbell. “We felt it very important that we work to give the parents the option if they needed to send their kids back to school.”

The district started with grades TK through 6th, staggering students return to campus.

“What we ended up doing is taking out some extra furniture that we had in rooms. We really had to adjust the classrooms and modify the say some of the instruction is done in order to safely spread the students out.”

Josh Darnell is the principal at Riverview Elementary. It’s a K-8 school with an enrollment of 460 students – about 250 of them are on campus daily.

“We had to work on building schedules that allowed us to include multiple breaks and multiple lunches and expanding those breaks and lunches in order to socially distance our students.”

It takes a lot to make sure students social distance on a playground. They each have their own equipment, stay with the same adult every day, their play area separated by colored cones, and the equipment sanitized after each recess.

“It’s a tremendous amount of money we have to spend our resources toward safety and purchase of PPE. We’ve hired extra staff and teachers to keep the class size small and we’ve received adequate funding through the Cares Act and funding through the Governor’s Office.”

The superintendent says Kings Canyon’s return to in-person learning is working because everyone, teachers, students, parents, and the community are all on the same page and had input in shaping the plan.

“My concern was safety for myself, for my teaching partners, and the students and that we would be all to make this work and that the students wouldn’t be scared and apprehensive in any way – and it’s gone well,” said teacher Deborah Ashton.

Students have adapted surprisingly well, following the safety measures they have been taught. Being back on campus has not only helped them academically but also socially and emotionally.

“My kids are so happy, they are so thrilled to be back. They appreciate the interaction with each other, with other adults. My kids have said we learn when we are here and so that has been super positive and they are excited to be back. They are happy.”

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